An lady applies a stamp known as hanko on a rendition of Amabie.
Move over Pokemon and Hello Kitty, in coronavirus-hit Japan, a new character has captured hearts and hopes: Amabie, a beak-nosed, long-locked mythical mermaid monster said to repel plagues.
In recent weeks, the mash-up monster has become the unlikely mascot of hopes for an end to the pandemic, emerging from relative obscurity to become a trending Twitter hashtag, as well as the inspiration for everything from cakes to nail art.
Her revival in fortunes was sparked in early March, when the Kyoto University Library tweeted an 1846 drawing of the creature floating above the sea, accompanied by a text explaining her apparent infection-fighting powers.
The scaly social media star is supposed to have appeared to a samurai in southern Kumamoto prefecture, warning of the spread of an infectious disease and instructing him to draw a picture of her and show it to people to protect them.
The post quickly went viral, and sparked the "Amabiechallenge", with everyone from amateurs to artists posting their renditions of the mythical monster.
The long-locked legend has also sparked on outpouring of creative content, including an udon dish featuring Amabie in the form of a fish sausage emerging from a bowl, with the traditional wheat noodles for her hair.
She has also found herself immortalised in bento form, her body and distinctive beak carved from a piece of luncheon meat and hair represented by thin strips of Japanese rolled omelette.
Amabie is part of a rich pantheon of Japanese mystical monsters called yokai.
Many have faded from popular imagination, but others live on, including in the form of modern-day mascots like the turtle-inspired river monster Kappa, now associated with Tokyo's famed kitchen street Kappabashi.
Amabie's recent revival has come as something of a surprise to some yokai experts, including Masanobu Kagawa of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History.
"Amabie is not the oldest yokai in Japanese history to warn of an epidemic, so it's not that important to researchers," he told AFP, describing others including "Jinja-hime" (shrine princess), who features a woman's face and a dragon's body.
But none seem to have captured the imagination quite like Amabie.
At one Japanese cake shop in northern Akita prefecture, a version of her rendered as a traditional wagashi cake in pastel pinks and blues has been flying off the shelves, sales manager Hirohide Kato told AFP.
"This is the first time we've made Amabie-themed cakes," he said.
They can only produce 250 a day, but "they're so popular they sell out by noon."
And at an aquarium in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, a sea lion who has gained fame for his calligraphy and painting skills has been trained to draw the monster.
"He started drawing Amabie in late March, practising for about a month," keeper Sae Ishino told AFP.
"We perform the drawing of Amabie hoping the pandemic of the new coronavirus will come to an end soon."
Cambodia's shadow puppet tradition goes back to the 7th century and has survived the collapse of empires, wars and Khmer Rouge reign of terror that left some 1.7 million people dead.
After an eight-week delay caused by France’s COVID-19 lockdown, the Christie’s auction house in Paris is hosting a raffle draw Wednesday for "Nature Morte,” an oil on canvas that Picasso painted in 1921.
Artist Patsy Van Roost is brightening up Montreal balconies and putting smiles on pandemic-weary passersby with a variety of personalized messages on multicolored banners hung across the city.
The artists congratulated the wise leadership and the UAE citizens on the Golden Jubilee and the UAE's global achievements in various fields.
Ram Gopal Varma expressed his admiration of policing services provided by the Dubai Police SPS project, which has been registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the first smart police station of its kind in the world that operates without human intervention.
Social media was outraged over the cruel killing of a Sri Lankan manager over allegations of blasphemy in Pakistani city of Sialkot on Friday.
“The exhibition reveals that though we come from different cultures and have diverse personalities, art portrays the beauty of this country through lives lived together in harmony,” says Jesno Jackson, co-founder of the gallery.